Ultrastructural, confocal and viscoelastic characteristics of whole blood and plasma after exposure to cadmium and chromium alone and in combination : an ex vivo study

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 12
  • Abstract:

    BACKGROUND/AIMS : Heavy metal pollution is increasing in the environment, contaminating water, food and air supplies. This can be linked to many anthropogenic activities. Heavy metals are absorbed through the skin, inhalation and/or orally. Irrespective of the manner of heavy metal entry in the body, the blood circulatory system is potentially the first to be affected following exposure and adverse effects on blood coagulation can lead to associated thrombotic disease. Although the plasma levels and the effects of cadmium (Cd) and chromium (Cr) on erythrocytes and lymphocytes have been described, the environmental exposure to heavy metals are not limited to a single metal and often involves metal mixtures, with each metal having different rates of absorption, different cellular, tissue, and organ targets. Therefore the aim of this study is to investigate the effects of the heavy metals Cd and Cr alone and whether Cr synergistically increases the effect of Cd on physiological important processes such as blood coagulation. METHODS : Human blood was exposed to the heavy metals ex vivo, and thereafter morphological analysis was performed with scanning electron- and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) in conjunction with thromboelastography®. RESULTS : The erythrocytes, platelets and fibrin networks presented with ultrastructural changes, including varied erythrocytes morphologies, activated platelets and significantly thicker fibrin fibres in the metal-exposed groups. CLSM analysis revealed the presence of phosphatidylserine on the outer surface of the membranes of the spherocytic erythrocytes exposed to Cd and Cr alone and in combination. The viscoelastic analysis revealed only a trend that indicates that clots that will form after heavy metal exposure, will likely be fragile and unstable especially for Cd and Cr in combination. CONCLUSION : This study identified the blood as an important target system of Cd and Cr toxicity.